Monday, 24 june 2019 | Brenda Rodríguez López
Work is one of the dimensions to which we dedicate most of the time of our lives. Therefore, in the performance of this daily duty, we will have both good days and bad days. Companies are only a reflection of the work of their professionals, who have different personalities, aspirations, visions, virtues and defects and seek to achieve common goals. At the same time, the demands and pace with which these workers face their tasks will change according to the needs of this shared project. These are more than enough ingredients for conflicts in companies to arise. No company, regardless of what kind it is, can prevent confrontations, clashes, hostility or tensions. Conflicts cannot be ignored; they must be confronted. However, if they are well managed, conflicts are also an opportunity to grow.
Conflict management is an essential resource for the development of any company. As we suggest in this short introduction, conflicts are inherent to the nature of human beings, regardless of their intensity and whether they are external or internal. The latter means that conflicts do not always occur between two parties. For example, professionals may experience contradictory emotions at different stages of their professional careers. This can lead to divergent, unexpected and, even, questionable decisions. In any case, when a conflict is not faced, its consequences increase.
Three different approaches in conflicts
When a leader, who from now on we will call John Doe, chooses to ignore or stay away from a conflict, he contributes to worsening the working environment, decreasing his credibility and trust and unfulfilling the corporate goals. Conflicts have a direct impact on the productivity of the employees who are involved in them and an indirect impact on the environment that surrounds them. John Doe considers that these special circumstances, disputes or antagonisms as only trivial issues that have no relationship with his management: <<That's not my business>>. In any case, he thinks that this is a problem that the employees themselves must solve: <<I haven't got time for this nonsense>>. But with this approach, in the not too distant future, he may come across problems such as non-compliance with deadlines, lack of performance, discontinuous workflows, loss of clients and the boost of a hostile climate.
It is possible for the protagonist of our history to know these potential consequences. Therefore he might decide to address the problem in a radical way: <<You will do what I say!>>. However, the solution of a conflict is never found in a demonstration of power or an imposition. With this approach, John Doe does not talk, seek consensus or reflect. He lets himself be guided by his prejudices and instincts. Consequently, he will make an arbitrary decision. Apparently, John Doe has found a solution, but he will soon notice what the consequences of his decision are: the conflict will not disappear. In fact, the mismanagement of a conflict may lead to it reaching another level, intensifying and even being more difficult to solve. Likewise, John Doe should take into account that the behavior of a leader always serves as an example, and he takes the risk of his attitude being imitated by the rest of the company's members.
However, John Doe can also be a great leader and understand that a conflict is not only a complex situation, but also a unique opportunity: <<Unique for what?>>. Unique for getting to know employees better, understanding their different perspectives, building better relationships, encouraging creativity, establishing new channels, designing new communication styles, being aware of behavior patterns and making the changes that are necessary. The development of transversal skills such as emotion management, negotiation, assertiveness, communication and leadership can greatly help to find a positive approach when these conflicts arise.